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No Assumptions When You Are Designing
Too Close To It

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2021-09-30
Here's a small little case study from us on an item that just happened last week. It was on a design issue for our friends at Satire Rock City, an online radio station - found online at

By the way, Jimmy (aka Spud) has put together a pretty incredible music station there. He has a 24/7 streaming online radio station playing all kinds and genres of rock music from 6-or-7 decades where the common element is that he features that have humor as a key component.

Additionally, he has a 30-minute program each week that's featured on the station but also on several terrestrial radio stations. Give it a listen!

The Project & The Problem

This particular issue was on a non-public "electronic press kit" page where Satire Rock City is making its case to program directors to pick up the weekly show for syndication on their station. If we say so ourselves, the page is smartly constructed ... giving lots of information to its audience in a concise way without being overwhelming. (Not as easy to do as you would think.)

Near the top of the page is a music player which lets visitors hear past shows of their choice.

In a review meeting one week, together we took a look at stats (in Google Analytics) and noticed that the number of plays on the player seemed a little low considering the number of views that page was getting.

In a nutshell, the problem wasn't getting visitors to the page but figuring out why they weren't pressing Play.

Design Problem On The Player

What you see below is a screen capture of what people used to see on the site and what wasn't working.

Do you notice the problem? We didn't include anything on the player to prompt a user to press Play to listen. We had been working on the page together with Spud for so long, we were used to the idea that if you just clicked in the song list or on the program image (in this case, "The Dating Game"), then the audio file would start.

We had forgotten to think about how this would look to a new user.

Once we realized, we added more play controls (and strengthened the visibility of volume controls, etc.) we saw better results.

Our Takeaway

Granted, this was just a little tweak and not make-or-break for the whole point of this page and this campaign for Satire Rock City.

But when thinking about it in design terms, we can't afford to make ANYTHING unclear for website visitors.

When You Assume ...

This all is just an easy test case and reminder than when you're involved in a project, you're too close to it to see it through new eyes.

When it comes to your personal testing team (if it's not on a big software project with independent QA testers), then it's time to have your spouse, your kid, a friend, anybody look at your page or site and try to run it.

Take a look at your site or any of your designs right now and see if there's any possible way that people won't "get it."

To quote Ulysses S. Grant, "If an order CAN be misunderstood, it WILL be misunderstood."